In the heart of the city, the Sharjah Heritage Area comprises an area of neatly restored traditional Arabian houses, many of them now converted to modest museums – although a couple are currently closed and the whole area is currently being turned upside down as part of the Heart of Sharjah project.
Centrepiece of the area is the enjoyable Sharjah Heritage Museum (Sat–Thurs 8am–8pm, Fri 4–8pm; 5dh) in an old building once belonging to a certain Saeed al Taweel (“Saïd the Tall”). The interior is jam-packed with displays on all the usual essentials – traditional clothing, local architecture, social customs, the pearling trade and so on, with some surprisingly interesting snippets of folklore and old superstitions along the way
The nearby Bait Al Naboodah (currently closed for renovations) is one of the most attractive traditional houses in the UAE, arranged around the usual courtyard and with rooms done up as they would have looked fifty years ago. Almost next door, the Calligraphy Museum (also closed for renovations) showcases a big collection of artworks inspired by Arabic calligraphy and ranging from traditional Kufic script through to brightly coloured contemporary works.
Immediately north of the Bait Al Naboodah is the Souq Al Arsa, one of the prettiest in the UAE. The souk is centred on an atmospheric central courtyard, from where a small but surprisingly disorientating tangle of alleyways spread out in all directions, lined with shoebox shops selling a range of unusual handicrafts, antiques and assorted bric-a-brac.
Tucked away around the back (north) side of the Souq Al Arsah, is the Majlis Ibrahim Mohammed Al Madfa, topped by a delicate round wind tower, said to be the only such one in the UAE.